Along with Isle Royale, Pictured Rocks is one of the crown jewels of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. This National Lake shore spans 42 miles of sandstone cliffs with the stunning backdrop of Lake Superior. This destination was one of the major highlights of our trip to the Upper Peninsula. We spent 4 days exploring by foot and paddle. From waterfalls, to rock formations, Pictured Rocks has some stunning sights to see!
Kayaking the Lake Shore
Unless you have extensive experience kayaking and have a sea kayak, it is not recommended to kayak the lake shore on your own. Though Lake Superior may be a lake, it can have some pretty torrential waves. We opted to do a tour with Paddling Michigan and highly recommend them! We took a gamble and booked our trip when we got to town. We were so glad we waited, this way, we were able to get weather recommendations before settling on a date which definitely paid off. The day we originally planned on going, there were huge waves and all the tours got cancelled! There are multiple choices for length of paddle and time of day. We chose to do the 6 hour Sunset Paddle and we were not disappointed. The way the rocks light up during golden hour is stunning and makes this tour preferable to the other time slots. We had absolute glass conditions on the water, even the tour guides said they had rarely seen conditions so perfect. We paddled past many popular spots including Bridal Veil Falls, Kissing Rocks, Lovers Leap, a shipwreck, and the Painted Coves. Since the water was so calm, we were able to paddle quicker and got a bonus exploration of Miner’s Castle by water! We had a tandem kayak which allowed Eric to do all the work while Ashley took all the pictures 🙂
Hiking the Lakeshore
Another way to see the Lake shore is by foot. The North Country trail runs through here with several miles right along the coastline. The cliffs vary from 50 to 200 feet above the water. We did a 15 miles hike which is still one of our favorite hikes to date! We started our trek at the Chapel Falls trail head. From there we hiked to Chapel Falls, then on to Chapel Rock. We took a right and hiked along the shoreline to Spray Falls. This waterfall runs straight off a cliff into Lake Superior, you can stand right along the cliff as the water dives off. From there we backtracked to Chapel Rock. We followed the coastline for miles, past Grand Portal Point, and had a beautiful view of Lover’s Leap. We hiked to Mosquito Beach and took the closer trail back to the trail head. You can also link up your hike to Mosquito Falls, we opted not to since we did that hike the day prior. It was an exhausting day but it was filled with so much beauty!
This is one of the most iconic locations in Pictured Rocks and also the most accessible. A short walk will take you to an observation deck to view the formation. Close by is also Miner’s Beach which is a popular place for lunch or to spend the day swimming.
Many people only think of the coastline when they think of Pictured Rocks but there are a surprising number of gorgeous waterfalls in the area as well. Munising Falls is located right by the visitors center and clocks in at a short 0.4 miles. Mosquito Falls and Chapel Falls are on the longer end at 3.0 miles, they also can be looped into a 10 mile hike that includes hiking along the lake shore. Sable Falls is gorgeous and is only a half mile hike, it is a little further of a drive however as it is closer to Grand Marais. Spray Falls was one of our favorite waterfalls however there is no easy way to get there. You can hike from Beaver Lake campsite or from the Chapel Falls parking lot which we did. As you can see, there is a great variety of trails to see waterfalls, there is something for every skill level.
It’s not hard to see why Pictured Rocks is one of the premiere destinations in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. We hope these tips help you if you’re planning a trip of your own. As always, get out there and Create Your Own Roadshow!